In September, we found out that our son needed glasses. We had noticed his eye turning in a little bit, but it wasn’t dramatic and he didn’t seem to show any signs of a vision problem. He was a little older than three at the time.
His first appointment was incredibly traumatic with both of us crying. He cried because of the eyedrops and I cried because I learned that my son was blind in one eye. His “strong eye” was 20/20, but his “weak eye” was 20/400. I was completely devastated. I knew that there was something going on, but I had no idea that it was so bad. He was so advanced in all areas and could even throw and catch a ball. He definitely had us fooled.
At his second appointment, we learned that we would need to patch his strong eye to make his weak eye stronger. I was somewhat prepared for the conversation because I had done some research before the appointment. The ophthalmologist said that we should patch for about two hours a day, but seemed pretty relaxed about it. I didn’t feel like I was getting the answers or attention that I needed, so I ended up switching doctors later that afternoon to a woman in the same practice. After talking with her, she suggested that we patch 10-12 hours per day. She confessed that it was an aggressive approach and that our lives would be miserable, but she claimed that our patching experience would be much shorter in the long run.
We patched for 12 hours a day for roughly four months and are now down to 6-8 hours of patching per day. When we started our journey, my son’s vision was 20/20 in his strong eye and 20/400 in his “weak eye.” After nine months of patching, his “weak eye” is 20/30! It has been an incredibly long and painful process, but we are almost there! Once we get to 20/20, we have promised a trip to the Mall of America, but our journey won’t stop there. We are starting vision therapy so our son can gain binocular vision. Even though his eye turn is almost completely gone and his visual acuity is almost perfect, he still can’t see in 3D. So, we have another journey ahead of us, but this leg is almost done. The end is in sight!
The first thing the doctor said to me was, “And you’re sure you haven’t noticed any crossing?” At that moment I broke inside. I had been so watchful of my daughter’s eyes and felt like I knew what to look for. I insisted that I hadn’t seen anything and the doctor told me that Miriam had accommodative esotropia, just like her brother. Since we caught it so early, though, she didn’t have a preference for one eye over the other and did not have amblyopia.
I was able to hold it together until the doctor asked if I was okay. At that moment I completely broke down, crying. I had no idea how I was going to keep a small baby in glasses. How was I going to deal with all of the stares and questions from strangers? I was already used to answering questions about my son’s glasses and his patch, but he was old enough to answer for himself. I really didn’t want more attention that I already had and the thought of my baby in glasses was devastating.
We picked out some really cute purple Miraflex frames that day and two weeks later, Miriam put them on for the first time. She looked so different and foreign to me, that I had to hold back my tears. I wanted to convey to her that she was beautiful and that she needed to wear her glasses. Amazingly, she didn’t take them off. Not once. To this day, she keeps her glasses on unless they are dirty or she’s tired.
We went through a different sort of grieving process when my daughter got glasses, mainly because we hadn’t noticed anything prior to her appointment. We doubted the doctor and my partner wanted a second opinion, but I was resolute that the doctor wouldn’t give Miriam glasses if she didn’t need them. After Miriam’s response to her new world view, we realized that she really did need glasses. She gained a confidence that she previously lacked and she really became a trouble maker. By the end of her ninth month, she had already taken her first step and was full blown walking a the end of her tenth month. She’s a little monkey.
Miriam is now one year old and her glasses have become a part of her and her personality. I can’t imagine my daughter without her purple glasses and her big, knowing eyes. I am so thankful that we caught her esotropia early enough to possibly stop amblyopia and the need for patching.
I find myself acting as a crusader for early vision exams and see all of the questions from strangers as teaching moments. Hopefully my voice can help other children receive glasses early enough to avoid all of the struggles we’ve had with my son.